I took a class with Sally Wright, a published mystery author, at the Midwest Writers Workshop in Indiana a few years ago. We chatted between sessions and since she is a Christian, I suggested she join ACFW. (She lives in Ohio.) She did. A few weeks ago she posted on our writer's loop and I asked if I could have permission to post her advice on a blog. This is a tough business, and it's easy to get caught up in all kinds of stress. Sometimes it's all perspective.
Here's what Sally had to say:
"I don’t often post on ACFW, but I follow the postings, and suspect that what I’ve experienced in the last few months might be of interest.
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months ago and told I’d be dead by now - if I didn’t have a really nasty surgery and do months of chemo and radiation. Which made me look at life and writing from a much shifted perspective. Background will be needed here to clarify what changed.
I know what it’s like to be obsessed with getting published. It took sixteen years (and three never published books) for my first two Ben Reese mysteries to be published by an excellent editor at Multnomah. It was God’s time, not mine. And the relief I felt was indescribable.
Then, totally unexpectedly (through the intervention of God, not brilliant strategies on my part), those books were bought as well by a much respected editor at Ballantine. I’d wanted very much to reach non-Christians, and that was an answer to prayer too.
The next two books in the series were also brought-out by both, and were followed by “good” and “bad” blessings. There were positive reviews, even in the NY Times, and the third novel was nominated for an Edgar Alan Poe Award by Mystery Writers of America. My Ballantine editor, however, who intended to really promote the 5th and 6th books, wasn’t allowed to even buy them by the new president of his mother company. He left publishing, and no other publishers wanted books in a series whose backlist they didn’t own. An English company published them, but didn’t distribute to bookstores, choosing only to sell on-line.
I then started writing a non-Reese book (without looking for a publisher) that had a very complicated WWII French Resistance back story. Yet, the more I researched, the more I began to think I didn’t know France well enough to place part of a book there without someone in France to help. I kept writing, but worried in the dark of the night.
The moment I was told I had six months to live, the first thing I thought was, “Thank God I don’t have to finish that book, or market my books again!” Which I thought even then was telling, which brings me to the writing insights I hope may help someone else.
We’re all hanging by a thread. We know that, as Christians, that we live depending on the will of God. But getting slapped in the face with that makes certain things stand out.
First writing insight: Life is short. It’s too short to keep writing a book you’re uneasy with, or you don’t feel suited to do well, or you’re not really enthused about. I don’t see that as giving-up now, but as using the time we’ve got left here to do what we can do well.
So I salvaged the parts that didn’t have to do with France and imagined a new plot in my head. Slowly. Lying in bed. Getting radiation. Waiting in chemo waiting rooms. Then, finally, at my computer.
Second writing insight: There’s more to life than writing (or getting published . . . or sellng a lot on Kindle . . . or whatever else about writing fills our minds and our days).
Personally, in my case - and I know this is a huge blessing everyone doesn’t have - before I even knew I was a candidate for the surgery that would give me a chance to survive - I suddenly realized that if I only had six months to live I’d choose to live each day the way I normally did.
I didn’t wish I’d won the Edgar, or gone to New Zealand, or become famous. Living with my husband, in the country, having grown kids I like and love, and a boxer dog I want to play with, writing as many hours as I can, is all I really want.
That, and being freed and comforted by the overwhelming sense I’ve been given that I really am in God’s hands - and who else’s would I want to be in? That’s something I’ve known for years. But not like I do now.
I love to write. There’re things I’m driven to say. But if I don’t get to finish the new book, or get my last two Ben Reese mysteries up on Kindle and Nook this week, it won’t matter at all. Life is about more. And I need to see and be grateful for the blessings God gives now."
|Sally Wright, ACFW member, and author of the Ben Reese Mysteries|
About Author Sally Wright:
Sally Wright is the author of six Ben Reese mysteries: Publish And Perish, Pride And Predator, Pursuit And Persuasion (a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist in 2001), Out Of The Ruins, Watches Of The Night (published in June 2008) and Code Of Silence, a prequel to the series (published in December 2008).
Posted by Crystal Laine Miller